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Mar 12, 2018

Helping counseling practices move from Forming, Storming, Norming to Performing

I spoke to a practice group composed of large practice owners in the Chicago area on how to help their practices move from forming, storming, norming to performing. One crucial component of moving through the stages successfully, is a code of conduct.

You need to ask yourself what does your practice culture communicate to internal and external customers? Is there poor staff attitudes, does the practice have subcultures and pockets of dissent, to the point that the organizational problems are now the focus of the effort expended, causing people to constantly put out fires?  Is there a need to have decisions made at the level of necessity and have work groups accountable for dealing with their own issues?

Most practice owners would just as soon not have to deal with staff issues. However, avoidance creates the above named symptoms.

5 Ways to upset staff

  • Exclude from decision-making opportunities
  • Play favorites
  • Poor communications
  • Poor supervision. (Relationship that an employee has with their direct supervisor is one of the most important factors in employee retention)
  • Negative co-workers

What practices need is a policy on communication.  It would be a policy developed by staff so they can buy into it.  It would be a policy that encourages people to solve problems at the lowest levels possible.  It would reduce gossip and back-stabbing and increase communication.  It would be a policy or contract written by the practice for the practice called a code of conduct.

Practices often have unwritten codes of conduct.  These are often defined by the practice culture.  If the culture is lax, hands off, conflict avoidant, staff can take advantage and make the rules. The more authoritarian the culture, the more the unwritten code of conduct encourages people to keep their mouths shut, not to rock the boat.

To write a code of conduct, it is often helpful to have the group list perceptions they see operating currently.  The opposites of those behaviors, if negative, are then listed.  Subsequently the group is asked how they can move from point A to point B.  The resulting discussion leads to the development of the code of conduct.



Current Perceptions

Desired Reality














One-to-One Personal Communication


 An example of a written code of conduct looks like this:

  1. Use positive confrontation.
  2. Agree to communicate directly, one to one.
  3. Be receptive to positive confrontation.
  4. Be aware of differing perspectives.
  5. Check out perceptions for accuracy
  6. Direct others back to the source; don’t participate in or listen to gossip.

Simple yet effective. A code of conduct helps set the rules straight before people violate them, which enhances communication and strengthens relationships.  Most people don’t mind following rules if they are known in advance, if they are applied consistently, and if they are fair.


         Taken from:

         Harnessing the Power of Conflict 3rd edition,
         Dasenbrook and Mastrioanni, Crysand Presss


Norman C. Dasenbrook, MS, LCPC is a private practice consultant with over 30 years’ experience. He is the author of, “The Complete Guide to Private Practice” For more private practice information go to or find him on Facebook at Dasenbrook Consulting.



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